Are Bartenders Happy? (Useful Guide)

are bartenders happy
Joe | Last Updated: April 23, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

Working as a bartender can be exhilarating, you’re the leader of the room and get to meet new people every single shift, some of which you may develop friendships and even relationships with.

Bartenders are in charge when working, they choose who they want to serve when things get busy and have the ability to play their own music which can make or break the atmosphere.

It’s often a lively environment that people enjoy and bartenders usually have lots of opportunities for progression and making great money through tips.

But “Are bartenders happy?” This question is often asked by aspiring bartenders to gain a better understanding of what they can expect if they decide to pursue this career.

YES, but not as many as you might think. This largely depends on the individual that works the job. But statistically, bartenders rate their happiness 3 out of 5 stars which puts them in the bottom 35% of careers.

Let’s take a closer look…

Are Bartenders Truly Happy?

Happiness is very much a subjective human experience, what makes one person happy could make another sad, which makes happiness a difficult metric to measure.

In bartending, you’ll find people that are extremely happy and love their job but equally, you will find others that don’t enjoy bartending as much and treat it as a means to an end.

This job for some can be a stopgap until they move on to a different career. Maybe they are working as a bartender as well as studying or as a side gig until they find something more suited.

are bartenders happy
Photo by RODNAE Productions

These are usually the people that don’t find true happiness in bartending as it’s not something they want or are planning to do for a long time.

In my experience, the happiest bartenders are those that work the job as a career out of passion and love for service, but truthfully these are few and far between in the bartending world.

Career explorer conducts ongoing surveys in a variety of careers with millions of people and asks them how satisfied they are with their careers. According to their survey, bartenders rate their career happiness 3.0 out of 5 stars which puts them in the bottom 35% of careers.

Why Are Some Bartenders Not Happy?

Bartending is unsurprisingly not for everyone. Unsociable hours, long shifts, and tiring work can get the better of bartenders and they can quickly stop enjoying their job.

For some people what was first fun and exhilarating can quickly become daunting and exhausting, leading them to look for alternative roles that suit them better.

So why are lots of bartenders unhappy at work and what should I be aware of before pursuing this career?


The average salary of a bartender in the United States is around $26,000 before tips, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median wage for workers in the United States in the second quarter of 2022 was about $1,041 per week or $54,132 per year.

As you can see, the average salary for a bartender is less than half that of the median wage. Whilst bartending can be lucrative for the few that are exceptional and can attract tips, it’s not great for many with this base salary.

Salary has a big impact on people’s happiness, and those that are not making enough money to get by may start to become unhappy at work.

Meaning / Purpose

Those that find meaning and purpose in their jobs are much more likely to be happy, more engaged, and committed to success.

One of the reasons some bartenders are unhappy at work is because it’s not fulfilling for them and has little purpose. For these people, it’s important for them to work in roles that they feel make an impact and give meaning to their lives.


All bars are different and each has a unique environment. Some are electric and oozing with fun, while others are depressive and dingy.

Finding a bar with a great environment makes all the difference to a bartender’s happiness, who wants to work in a bar that has barely any customers and rubbish music? Not me.

The bar’s environment has a significant impact on the happiness of its employees.

Personality Fit

Not everyone is cut out for bartending and that’s OK. The long hours, late nights, and grilling by customers can be exhausting and make even the best bartenders want to quit at times.

To be truly happy as a bartender you need to LOVE it. It has to be a passion and fit your personality type, if not, there’s no doubt that ultimately the job will become draining.

Do Bartenders Find Their Job Meaningful?

According to the career explorers survey, bartenders rate the meaningfulness of their work 2/5, with the majority of bartenders struggling to find any sort of meaning in their work.

Let’s not beat around the bush, bartending is serving drinks and providing excellent customer service, but it’s hardly changing the world or putting people on Mars.

I personally found meaning in bartending, as I love the role and it’s my passion, but I know plenty of bartenders that do not find the job meaningful.

are bartenders happy
Photo by cottonbro studio

It’s a matter of personal perspective, some people find meaning in providing service to others and working towards a larger goal, whereas others are looking for something with a deeper meaning.

Many bartenders don’t feel motivated by the tasks set out before them, which is why the role isn’t suited to everyone.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, after reading this post you now have a clear answer to “are bartenders happy” and an understanding of why the job satisfaction rate is so low in bartending.

It’s a demanding job that only pays well for a small percentage of people through receiving tips, but baseline salaries are well below the average in the United States.

That said, I made great money in bartending and know others who do. If your personality is right for the role and you’re passionate, there’s no doubt you can make A LOT of money in bartending.

But money isn’t the only thing that brings happiness to a job. Meaningfulness, satisfaction, and environment all play a role in how happy a bartender will be at work.

Bartending is not for everyone, in fact, there aren’t many people who can really excel at bartending and make their way to the top, but those that do are almost always happy with their career path as they have a true passion for serving customers.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I’ll catch you in the next one!